Hockey

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Game Time: 7:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC, CBC, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Where’s All The Stolen Liquor, Danny Ocean? Did You Hide It Up Your Butt?: SinBinKnights On Ice

With the series now “shifting” to the Hawks having home ice tonight and tomorrow, it offers them a chance to claw back into the series after going down two games to none on Thursday night, squandering an opportunity after forcing overtime against the much faster Knights. This of course, operates under the assumption that the Blackhawks have a competent coach who will utilize his ability to free up his top players with last change, which they absolutely do not have.

Hockey

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RECORDS: Hawks 12-12-6   Knights 15-12-5

PUCK DROP: 9pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

DIAMONDS AND DUST: SinBin Vegas

You most certainly don’t feel like it, but if the Hawks were to get a point out of this one, and they only just got their first two points ever in Vegas in four tries last month, they would have something of a points-streak. I don’t know if four games count as a “streak,” but these days we have to take what we can get. And it’s going to take an extended one if the Hawks are going to leap all the teams they need to get into the playoff discussion. They’ll start the desert swing tonight before wrapping up this small road trip in St. Louis, which is only a desert of the mind.

They’ll find a Knights team that isn’t quite having its own way as it had in its first two years. They hold the last wildcard spot at the moment, but somehow find themselves trailing both the Coyotes and the Oilers by five points. They won’t expect either of those teams to hold up, and you’d think when those bubbles burst the Knights will be there to pick up the pieces and go home. It’s still the smart money.

In some ways, the Knights are the opposite of the Hawks. They do all their good work between the goal lines, but when it comes to making it count on either end they’ve been a little shy. They rank in the bottom 10 in both shooting-percentage and save-percentage, which kind of undoes their top-1o standing in both Corsi and expected goals percentage. Whereas the Hawks can’t do any of that in-between shit but do get saves and do get goals because they have experts on that at both ends.

It would be easy to point to the aging Marc-Andre Fleury and think that’s the problem, but only his injuries have been a problem. The real issue is the Knights don’t have a representative backup. Malcolm Subban has been thoroughly mediocre, with a .901 and the sub-.500 record he and the team has when he starts. Fleury has bee fine, but has missed the past couple weeks. Luckily for the Hawks, he returns tonight.

At the other end, the Knights just haven’t made their chances count even if they get more of them. The days of Max Pacioretty being amongst the league’s best marksmen are probably past. Mark Stone never was. Wild Bill Karlsson was never going to match the 25% shooting-percentage of two years ago. Marchessault and Smith haven’t really made up the difference while also doing just enough. It’s likely the Knights won’t have a 30-goal scorer, but might end up with six or seven 20-goal ones. But if Smith or Patches or Marchessault catch fire for a month, they will most likely rocket up the standings.

It’s still the lightning quick squad that has been a nightmare for the Hawks for most of their meetings. Get it out, get it up, get it the fuck up there as quick as possible is always the plan with the Knights so they can get their forwards in space. And their defense, thanks to Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore mostly, is just mobile enough to give themselves just enough time to do so, whether it’s one pass or off the glass or chipped out to the red line. When it’s on song it can be impossible to live with, but you also need to make those things count by actually finishing, which has been something of a struggle so far this year.

To the Hawks, who will start Corey Crawford tonight. Adam Boqvist is up, and is the only Hawks d-man who can play at the Knights’ speed. Where he’ll play hasn’t been determined yet, or if he’ll play at all. It’s likely he’s in for Koekkoek while everyone still worships at the altar of Dennis Gilbert. And he is likely to get very exposed tonight, chasing hits he won’t come within five feet of as the Knights forwards gleefully sprint into the space he vacates. The rest of the lineup should remain the same.

The Hawks have gotten three of four points available against Vegas so far this year, which seems a miracle given what we saw the first two years. Without Keith and this plodding blue line, you really don’t look forward to this one much. But the Hawks can’t afford to deem any game beyond them if they’re serious about playing games that matter later on in the season. So they’ll have to be quick with the puck, no 17-pass breakouts, and perhaps collapsing a bit more to their crease instead of chasing forwards they can’t catch all over their zone would be helpful.

Off we go.

Hockey

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RECORDS: Hawks 6-7-4   Knights 9-7-3

PUCK DROP: 9pm

TV: NBCSN

DIAMONDS AND DUST: Sinbin.Vegas

The Hawks will begin a mini-roadie through the nouveau riche of the NHL, with tonight’s stop in Sin City before heading to Music City on Saturday night. Clearly Sin and Music go together, as every person who’s thrown a bible at you has told you.

And these are not two venues that many in the following will be greeting giddily. We know what happened to the Hawks the last time they were in Nashville, and they have yet to get a point out of Vegas in two seasons and three trips. In fact, they’ve been done to the tune of a combined 13-7 there, and last year’s 4-3 loss was the only time they were within a zip code of the Knights in their own resort.

You can debate whether or not it’s a good time to catch a team after they’ve lost four of five and six of eight. Clearly, they’re not playing well. But also clearly, they’re probably pretty angry and going to come out with a fair measure of piss and vinegar. Especially as those four losses for the Knights were on the road and this is their first home game since. The archers and drummers will be even more amped up.

Not that there weren’t some bad losses for them on their recent trip. There are few excuses you can come up with to justify losing to Detroit and barely squeaking by Columbus in regulation. OT losses in Winnipeg and Toronto are more understandable, as is getting kicked to shits by the Caps in DC. Just kind of a thing they do these days. That all happened to Vegas.

And it’s mostly because the offense has dried up. They scored 10 goals in those five games, and they haven’t managed more than three goals in any game in November, nor more than two in their last four. They only managed 19 shots in their loss to Detroit, which was definitely a “Let’s get this the fuck over with and get home” kind of effort. They kind of did the same thing against Columbus, which sort of indicates they’re picking their spots a bit.

Don’t worry, the Knights are still going to be annoying all season. They’re still one of the better metric teams around, and they produce just about as good and as many chances as anyone, ranking third in xGF/60 at evens. They’ve had issues with the other side, as they’re barely middling in the ones they’ve given up, and that might have something to do with having a pretty immobile defense beyond Nate Schmidt. They’re also unlucky in that they’re shooting less than 7% as a team, and they can’t get too many saves with just a .909 at evens. The former will straighten itself out before too long. The latter…

…maybe not so much. As you know by know. Seabiscuit lookalike Marc-Andre Fleury is old and has been abhorrent of late, with an .877 SV% over his last five starts. Malcolm Subban isn’t going to save any team, and counting on him for more than a spot start here and there is going to lead to a downfall. The Knights had better hope for that goals-explosion soon, because there’s a more than zero chance their goaltending just never quite comes around again. They’re just going to count on a soon-to-be 35-year-old Fleury to find it.

Still, this is a test of the Hawks apparently new “system” of being more open and adventurous…which saw them give up 57 shots to a barely interested Leafs team. If the Knights are fully engaged, then they might give up 75. This is a team the Hawks really haven’t come close to being able to run with since they came into existence, and now they apparently seem intent on going toe-to-toe with just about anyone, it could be ugly. It could also be the only way.

The Hawks almost got their first regulation win against the Knights the last time they played, but that involved maxing out while the Knights were kind of only there. And even that got them a last-minute equalizer. The Hawks were able to skate with them in the neutral zone and Duncan Keith had his best game in three seasons or so to cut off things at the blue line. That game also cost the Hawks Connor Murphy, which indicates some of the strain of the effort.

The tweaks the Hawks have made are meant to get their forwards out against d-men they’re either faster than or more skilled than or both, and usually that will be the case. It will be here, as you want to get isolate in space against the likes of McNabb and Engelland and Holden. The problem is you have to sacrifice a bit the help you’re giving your d-men to get out from under the frightening speed of the Knights forwards, so how the Hawks escape will go a long way to indicating where this one will go. Can the Hawks D find enough time to even just chip off the glass and behind the Knights defensemen for their forwards to skate onto?

Good test for Boqvist tonight too, as this is the exact type of opponent the Hawks need him for while also being the one he has to figure out how to get out from under. He has the feet to actually open himself up and get the Hawks into the neutral zone and beyond, and he’s the only one, but he also has to navigate his way through the furious Knights forecheck which has buried basically all of his teammates on the blue line in every meeting. See how he handles it.

If the Hawks are serious about taking their hand off the throttle, then it won’t be boring. At this point, we can’t ask for much more.

Everything Else

Ken Boehlke is one-half of sinbin.vegas. This was the Q&A we did with them when the Knights were in town just a couple weeks ago. Follow them @SinBinVegas.

We know the Knights benefitted last year from insane goaltending along  with their more than solid even-strength play. But having among the worst save-percentage and shooting-percentage this season seems a violent market correction. Is there something systemic here more than just rotten luck?

What it really comes down to is Grade-A scoring chances and the subsequent execution of them. Early in the season the Golden Knights were having a hard time creating anything in the dangerous areas (in the house, if you know that term) but what was worse than their inability to create the chances was a consistency in not finishing those chances when they did arise. Luckily, as tends to be the case in hockey, that has turned recently, especially since they’ve begun to play more
Pacific division teams.

How big is the injury to Paul Stastny?

To be completely honest, it hasn’t had a major impact to this point. It’s the loss of Haula that seems to be more of a detriment to the team. Stastny certainly would have been, and hopefully will eventually be, a nice center for the 2nd line, but Eakin has stepped in incredibly well and appears to be thriving with goal-scorers on his line again. The loss of Haula however has definitely taken an level of speed away from the team and at times they don’t look like the quick, ferocious, probably considered annoying team that won the Western Conference. They’ve been searching for anyone to make the 3rd line go since Haula’s gruesome injury, but it hasn’t really happened yet. Would they be better with Stastny back? Of course, but if you gave me one or the other right now, I’d rather have Haula.

And the suspension to Nate Schmidt? While he’s unquestionably a good player is he really a top pairing d-man that a team would miss so heavily?

I’ll be completely honest in saying I heavily underestimated the impact Schmidt would have in the lineup upon his return. When a guy is out for the first 20 games of the season and the last memories of him are the Cup Final when not a single defenseman was any good, there certainly has to be a level of skepticism about how good the player really is, especially a player who has only a one year track record of being a top pair defenseman. But this guy is everything and more on the ice that made the hockey world realize that he’a a top 20 defenseman in the league and maybe even better. He’s kind of been this a stabilizing force to the defense in that they aren’t allowing an odd-man rush a period anymore, but it’s added an element of transition back into Vegas’ game and most importantly, it’s meant the return of Colin Miller and Shea Theodore to more familiar, less defensively responsible, roles. All of that was a long way to say, YES, Nate Schmidt is that good.

Max Pacioretty started slow, there was concern, and now he’s bagged six goals in four games. Was this just a product of all scorers going through hot and cold streaks?

I don’t think it was simply a cold streak that a scorer tends to go through. We’ve all seen those cold streaks and they tend to mean lots of great saves against, post hits, miraculous backchecking, and the likes. That’s not what this was for Pacioretty. He was just not good. He wasn’t creating much by means of scoring chances and he was uncharacteristically a liability defensively. When I say he was bad, I mean, he was legitimately one of the worst forwards on the team. However, he’s definitely not that anymore, and it’s not because he’s scored a bunch of goals recently. It seems to have much more to do with
his linemates. Playing with Alex Tuch isn’t as simple as it would seem. He’s so much faster than he looks and he plays with a power that’s not horribly common in the NHL. Pacioretty seemed to always been a half  second behind Tuch, likely because he didn’t expect Alex to be able to pull off some of the stuff that he does. Now, Pacioretty expects Tuch to win every puck, to undress guys at the blue line, and to fire passes through people every shift. Pacioretty is starting to find himself in much better positions when Tuch and Eakin create turnovers, and the three of them are starting to look dangerous every single time out as a unit rather than individually. Pacioretty told me about two weeks ago that he thought he was thinking too much and it was slowing him down. That’s a huge problem when you play with Tuch. That appears to be over
and the flood gates might just be open.

 

 

Game #30 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

SCHEDULE: Game 1 Wednesday, Game 2 Friday, Game 3 Sunday, Game 4 April 17th

Amazingly, the Kings and their fans are going to take a break from complaining/campaigning for their players to win awards they don’t deserve to play a playoff series. But as we all know, what really counts is what individual awards your team garners. Anyway, the Kings might have drawn the sweetheart spot here and play a fading Vegas team that still was able to hang onto the division because the rest of the Pacific blows goats. Anyway, this could be a long series, but it won’t be all that much fun to watch.

Goalies: There will be a ton of talk about Jonathan Quick’s playoff pedigree, and it will ignore the fact that Quick has as many crap playoff campaigns as excellent ones. He was terrible in 2014 but his team was so high-octane it didn’t matter. And he wasn’t any better when the Kings got trounced in 2016 by the Sharks. Quick closed the season pretty roughly in three April appearances but that shouldn’t nullify how good he was in March. This was his best regular season since that 2012 triumph, so one should expect something closer to the dominant Quick in the playoffs than the one who couldn’t stop a sloth in the sand.

There may be a lot of talk of Marc-Andre Fleury’s playoff foibles, but that was a long time ago. Fleury has been at least good and sometimes excellent in his last three playoff runs, and was possibly the biggest reason the Pens got a second Cup last year when Matt Murray was hurt. And that Penguins team was not defensively sound. Again, he’s much more likely to be average or better than he is to have a full body burf that he did in 2012.

Defense: Well, they’ll try and tell you that Drew Doughty deserves another Norris, and he’s been good as he usually is. But he’s not Norris-worthy, and the Kings probably need him to be because the rest of this crew sucks. Dion Phaneuf is terrible, has pretty much always been terrible, and with how quick the Knights are you’re going to see how terrible. Alec Martinez is fine, I guess. Christian Folin is not. When you need Jake Muzzin, you’re in a place you need to get out of. Look or the Knights to get behind this team a lot.

I don’t know how the Knights did it, because this blue line should suck. The only one you’d want is Nate Schmidt, and maybe Shea Theodore if you squint. I’m not sure the Kings have the forward depth to attack this weakness, and if Jeff Carter is feeling frisky the Knights are going to have some problems. There should be chances and both goalies are going to have to be on their toes to keep there from being a lot of goals.

Forwards: The Kings are top heavy, with most of the heavy lifting being done by Anze Kopitar, who somehow also re-exhumed Dustin Brown. Toffoli and Carter on the second line have dovetailed into a playoff boomstick before, and that’s the Kings hope. If Adrian Kempe pops off that could tilt this. But there isn’t much on the bottom six.

Again, we don’t know much about what the Knights here, because we haven’t seen their top six forwards as top six forwards in the playoffs. Wild Bill Karlsson isn’t going to shoot 25% this series, you wouldn’t think. Can Marchessault and Smith get goals when it’s hardest? We know Haula does when he plays the Hawks. But they’ve gotten this are, and if they can replicate their “get it the fuck up there quick!” style from the regular season a plodding Kings blue line is going to struggle. If they convert those chances, this fluke might go a little farther.

Prediction: I don’t think too many people want to see either of these teams in the second round, but one’s going. The Kings hardly inspire, but the Knights won eight games in regulation since Feb. 23rd. Four of those were over Vancouver, Calgary, and Detroit. That’s not exactly roaring into the playoffs (and an indictment on the division that no one could run them down). I feel like the Kings are just going to attrition this. And it’ll take a while. Kings in 7. 

Everything Else

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Game Time: 9:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Indecent Proposal: Sin Bin

 

In the final stop of what was to be a somewhat make-or-break road trip for the Hawks, they move from one desert oasis to another seemingly already broken to face the inexplicably division leading Vegas Golden Knights, but hey, at least it’s on the second of a back to back where the team probably got into to town late enough to avoid acting unprofessional. But nothing can be ruled out at this point.

Everything Else

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Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Does The Real Caesar Live Here?: Sin Bin

The Hawks finally return to West Madison tonight for the first time in 2018 after their longest road trip of the season that saw them volley back and forth between coasts to welcome for the very first time the Vegas Golden Knights, who inexplicably sit atop the Western Conference with games in hand on basically everyone who is their closest competition for the top overall seed.

Everything Else

You can get a pretty decent illustration of just how hockey works, and doesn’t work, via the journeys of Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault.

Let’s start with Smith. Back in the day, when men were men and all that, Smith piled up 58 goals in two seasons at Miami of Ohio. That’s suggests a natural goal-scorer, because you just don’t see players pile up 30-goal seasons in college, especially when they’re not obscenely overaged.

But hey, you gotta give up someone to get someone, and Smith found himself part of the Tyler Seguin trade. Of course, the Seguin trade was just an example of how dumb GMs can be, and Peter Chiarelli is at the head of that list. Smith put up a 20-goal season in his first year in Boston, and then a further 13 the next season. Not exactly a huge season but he’d already flashed secondary scoring talent and at the time was still only 24 and entering his prime.

Coming off those two seasons, the Bruins were certainly up against the cap but after 13 goals and a restricted free agent, the Bruins weren’t going to have to break the bank to keep him. Instead, they punted him to Florida so they could bring Jimmy Hayes home, and basically bringing him home was the only appeal because Jimmy Hayes sucks.

Smith would go on to score 40 goals over two seasons in Florida. Again, you can’t just “find” guys who score 20 goals per season. They’re kind of the whole point of the operation here. And while the Panthers might have their own internal budget, Smith was considered surplus to requirements by Dale Tallon, who apparently thought this was part of his “I’M IN CHARGE AGAIN!” warpath to undo anything that might have had to do with any sort of analysis. We’ll come back to Smith.

Marchessault didn’t quite flash the same way that Smith did below the NHL. Yes, his last season in the QMJHL saw him score 40 goals, but in that league if you can stand up and avoid sneezing during a game you probably get 40 goals. He put up three 20+ goal seasons in the AHL after that, which isn’t easy but also isn’t a neon sign that he has to be called up. He came up for air for about half of a season in ’16-’17 in Tampa, scored seven goals, didn’t really have a way to crack the lineup, and was moved to Florida last season.

There he popped for 30 goals. And while it’s easy to dismiss that, as he’d never hit 30 as a professional anywhere, a 15.5% shooting percentage isn’t stratospheric. And yet, Tallon thought he was expendable, too. A guy who just put up 30 goals.

And this is where things get really funny. In last summer’s expansion draft, Tallon chose the 4F-D model for his protection list. Which left Marchessault and Smith exposed, for the cause of Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk. Which doesn’t make any goddamn sense at all. Yes, championship teams can be built from the back and the Panthers are going to need something beyond Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad. But Petrovic and Pysyk? They’re ok, maybe even “nice” players. But we all know the adjective “nice” is at best a backhanded compliment. They’re also both 25. If they were going to be anything more than they are, we’d have seen some signs of it by now.

Making it worse, the Knights took Marchessault, because cheap 30-goal scorers just don’t arrive on your doorstep, and then Tallon handed them Smith for a 4th round pick. That’s it. Maybe the Cats needed to dump salary, maybe they didn’t, but Pysyk was making just about the same.

The Florida Panthers are 19th in the league in goals per game, just so you know.

And the story doesn’t end there. Marchessault and Smith have lit it up in Vegas, combining for 25 goals and 68 points so far. Now, if this were a normal world, they’d be doing this for an expansion team that wasn’t going anywhere was was looking three or four years down the line. Both were headed into free agency after the year, Smith restricted and Marchessault into unrestricted. They would have been prized possessions at the deadline for a bunch of teams, where the Knights could have collected high draft picks/prospects that will matter when this team matters.

Except the Knights do matter now. Or at least they think they do. Thanks to whatever you want to attribute it to–insane goaltending, dumb luck in dumb overtime rules, Vegas flu–they sit near the top of the division. So perhaps they thought it would be a tough sell to their burgeoning fanbase to flog two of their three top scorers.

Instead, they extended both for $5 million a year until for the next four years in Smith’s case and the next six in Marchessault’s case. Both will have entered their 30s when their deals are up. It’s not scandalous, but it is curious.

Because if the Knights’ goaltending drops off next year, or they don’t get the overtime results, or visiting teams actually act like professionals, what are the Knights going to want with two scorers in their late 20s that they can’t move? They just eroded a lot of their value. On a normal track, by the time the Knights are really ready to contend, both will be past their primes.

But does anything work the way it’s supposed to now?

 

 

 

Game #40 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier run SinBin.vegas. They were kind enough to take the time to answer our nonsense. Follow their work on Twitter @Sinbinvegas.

So like the crusty old hockey guys we are, seriously we only drink Molson now, we’ve scoffed for a while at the Knights success. But it’s getting time to get past that, obviously. What is the key here? Gerrard Gallant? A unique style? As lots of people will be seeing this team for the first time live, what should they be looking for?

Boehlke: The biggest thing is their depth. The top line is clearly a cut below every other team’s, but the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th are better than pretty much every team. Plus, their defense pairings can hang with anybody and are pitching in a ton of offense. They all play a quick brand of hockey and no matter who is out there at any given moment they are dangerous in transition. You turn the puck over in your own end or in the neutral zone (or even near the blue line) the Golden Knights will be in front of your net getting a scoring chance in a hurry. Defensively, they play the simplest game you’ve ever seen in the NHL. Simple fast decision making usually has them breaking out of their own zone easily and quickly (except last night against St. Louis). Gallant is the ultimate players coach and deserves a ton of credit, but there’s more to his style that’s any different than anyone else. He just has this calming effect on the players and they seem to really want to play for him. Finally, what should they be looking for? Well, quick decision making, great transition from their own end to the neutral zone into the attacking zone, and a bunch of odd-man rushes. They don’t do anything you’ve never seen before, but they are good at doing things you have. That was a long answer, but that’s what you get when you ask seven questions masqueraded as one.

Pothier: 

The Golden Knights play a relatively simple game. Limiting mistakes, pushing the tempo and maintaining possession are a few reasons why Vegas has 56 points in 39 games. Vegas plays smart, makes quick decisions and keeps their foot on the gas. They’re also very balanced, getting impact production from their offense and defense. Plus, Vegas has gotten steady goaltending all season. Lastly, Head coach Gerard Gallant is the perfect leader. His roster came together quick and believed they could win. He’s not a cheerleader type, but a coach that allows players to trust their instincts. Gallant won’t mess with his lines often, and gives players opportunities to work out of funks. His assurance with the players has created a fun, loose environment. One that’s perfect for winning. 

William Karlsson never had more than 25 points in a season, now he’s got 33 in less than half of one. What’s the deal here?

The main thing is usage. In Columbus he was a third or fourth liner who was normally asked to concentrate on his defense. He’s an excellent defensive center, but now the Golden Knights are giving him a bunch more offensive zone starts and have put him on a line with Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault who have made him into an attacking star. He’s just an all around stud player and his success is as much an indictment on the Blue Jackets not knowing what they had more so than the Golden Knights utilizing him properly. This guy is a stud and is going to be for a while. He may not score 30 goals every year because that shooting percentage is preposterous, but his 200 foot game isn’t going to change as time goes on.

Karlsson’s offensive stats are hard to ignore, but his overall play is what’s more impressive. He’s became a lockdown center effectively playing the full sheet of ice. His neutral zone decisions have created countless odd-man rushes for his linemates Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault. Like many Golden Knights, Karlsson has benefited greatly from more ice time. The Swede is averaging four minutes per game more than his career average. Columbus couldn’t promise the same opportunities. Now that Karlsson is on the ice more his skill is more defined. The Golden Knights have a core two-way center that has a knack for finding the back of the net.

It’s the same thing with Malcolm Subban. He was never that impressive in the AHL with the Boston organizations, and is now rocking a .922. Is that just maturity and experience or a huge spasm of luck or something in between?

All the credit in the world goes to the Golden Knights goalie coach Dave Prior for Subban’s turnaround. He hit the waiver wire and Vegas pounced on him. Why? Because Prior knew it would only take a few simple fixes to turn him from a bum to a the 1st round talent he was when he was drafted. He’s a lot quieter in the net and he doesn’t take nearly as many risks. Prior has taught him to stay standing a bit longer than normal and with his elite reaction speed and big frame it’s made all the difference. He seems to be the real deal, but I still want to see how he responds to getting lit up. It’s been all positives here. That wasn’t the case in Boston and Providence. Can he keep his head on straight after giving up five or six goals? If he can, he might be the future for the Golden Knights, if not, maybe Oscar Dansk is.

Subban has played above anyone’s expectations, including the Golden Knights organization. In Boston, there was internal pressure because he was a first-round draft pick. His role never developed in the AHL and the Bruins were left waiving him. He’s incredibly athletic, strong and humble. Subban has refined his skills with the aid of Vegas goalie coach Dave Prior. Which could be a big reason why he’s playing so well. All that being said, it’s still early to declare Subban as the goaltender of the future. Vegas fans will be happy if he is. They really love to cheer “Soooooob” when Subban makes a nice save. 

So the goalposts have had to shift now, yes? Where George McPhee might have been tempted to do some selling at the deadline to get long-term assets, he can’t really do that now, correct?

Absolutely not. The only thing he can do in regards to selling is “selling to buy.” If he flips one or two of the UFAs (Neal, Perron, and Sbisa) he’s got to bring back a long term piece that can also help now. No longer are 2020 2nd round picks a valuable commodity. My guess is McPhee completely stands pat at the deadline and just lets this team ride it out, but he’s not afraid to make a splash trade so who knows. But I will tell you this, every time he’s asked about the deadline he runs the same line, “I’m not going to sit here and derail anything.” So, if you take him for his word, he’s not going to sit here and derail anything.

I’m not fully counting out roster movement at the deadline. The Golden Knights GM has continuously said he won’t derail the momentum. However, he carefully reminds fans that it’s too early to plan for the playoffs. Which in my mind suggests McPhee is more concerned about building the future. Is it still possible that McPhee trades a player like David Perron for a prospect or draft pick? Of course, the only problem is disrupting a first-place team. McPhee can’t do that, his boss Bill Foley would be livid. 

With the incredibly surprising start, as well as the novelty, how has the first half-season gone over in Vegas? Are they in the news and such? Buzz?

It’s everywhere. Literally the only thing people in Vegas talk about. It’s kind of a euphoric state in which everyone can’t believe how good they are and therefore there’s very little actual hockey talk. Instead it’s just a bunch of hyperbole and disbelief about how awesome it is to have a team that’s not awful. It feels a lot like a college town where you have to know what’s going on or you are basically a social outcast. That doesn’t mean anyone actually knows what’s going on, cause they don’t and not enough people know about my website, but they certainly know what happened in the last game. It’s cool and it’s only going to get better when the real games start in April and hopefully May and June.

The Golden Knights are the talk of the town, and righteously so. However, to my disappointment the local radio and tv stations haven’t fully committed. The NFL, Raiders, NBA, and UNLV continue to lead the local airwaves. During some local programming it sounds as if the Golden Knights were never created. It’s not the fans fault. Vegas fans are loud, passionate and enjoying this fairy tale inaugural season. The entire city is amped for the second half of the season, and possibly the postseason

 

Game #40 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Oh hey look! It’s the new kid! The mouthy, over-hyped new kid, but because he has the nicest house and the latest video games and the best weed everyone’s going to go over there after school anyway. Yes, this Vegas team hasn’t really shut up since well before they expansion draft, but you’re going to get constant updates about their ticket sales and Twitter and FB are going to be filled with your fellow fans making the trip out to Vegas when their team is there. At least a group of sweaty hockey fans aren’t the worst group of people you can find yourself surrounded by in Vegas, but it’s close. Anyway, the chatter will do everything it can to distract you from the fact this team is something you’d dig out of the bathroom drain. And it’s probably going to be that way for a few years. Which it should.

Oh right… we can’t do previous year’s stats, because they didn’t exist. So we’ll just hop right into it.